State of the Blog: The Current Plan
So, here is the state of things – I’m working on getting back into regular writing, including keeping this blog up to date as both an opportunity to share my thoughts (typically as they relate to the current happenings of comics, primarily those on the web) as well as keep my writing at least somewhat regularly active. I aim to do this while keeping up with several other writing pursuits, so I’m planning on a weekly update on this blog, though not bound to any particular schedule beyond that.
I don’t imagine returning to the output I originally had with the blog – in part due to the time I have to devote to this, but more importantly, there are only so many topics I can write on. With a lot of those comics, I’ve already written about them and said what I have to say – and I find my webcomic list to be shrinking rather than growing these days. For one thing, I’ve found it less and less feasible to dive into new strips (often with extensive archives) and add them to the list; for another, I’ve realized there are more than a few comics I read out of habit rather than actual entertainment.
This isn’t to say I don’t occasionally have a brilliant new comic sent along to me, and rapidly find myself immersed in it – but it is the exception rather than the rule. For all of those who have sent me comics to review, I definitely appreciate it, and do promise to take a look – but certainly can’t guarantee anything more than that. That which really stands out will definitely be read, bookmarked and likely reviewed, but its going to have to be really stellar to do so.
So! That was largely all I wanted to put forward – reviews are coming and continuing, likely at a weekly pace. If I can’t get anything up during a week, I’ll generally put forward a short post – much like this one – making mention of the fact, along with any other current webcomic news or commentary that seems worth sharing. That’s the plan, at least for now.
Webcomic News: Someone in Need
The first big news – the only news really, truly in need of sharing – is that Karen Ellis, of Planet Karen at Girl Wonder, has lost nearly everything in a building fire that essentially claimed her home and the vast majority of her possessions. Even the smallest donation can be of help to her as she recovers from this tragedy – this link covers what can be done to help Karen. (And this link gives a lot of very good perspective on how to help someone after this sort of disaster.)
Even for those who don’t have money to spare, simply spreading the word is extremely valuable – the more people that know about this, the more people that can help.
Webcomic News: The Endless Debate
The last week has seen a brief resurgence of the debate over webcomics, how to make them into profit, and the future thereof, with a somewhat new spin – Valerie D’Orazio of Occasional Superheroine puts forth the idea that DC or Marvel (or some other similar powerful media company) might try to snag up the biggest webcomics with lucrative deals, assembling them into a private subscription service. A lot of feedback immediately rose up, largely from the webcartoonists themselves – both in the comments of the post as well as elsewhere. The response was largely that such a proposition (for Marvel or DC) simply wouldn’t be viable – mainly because they’d have to offer too much to get the top webcomics to ‘go corporate’.
I can’t really disagree with that claim – especially having seen some similar scenes with webcomics entering negotiations with newspaper syndicates. For webcomics that are already doing well enough to have a vast audience and make a living – and for the top webcomics, usually a pretty good one – while leaving the authors with full creative control over their work, full rights to their creations, full control over their websites, their activities, their merchandise, etc…
Well, there just isn’t any incentive to be bought out, without being offered far more than is really viable for them to be offered.
Now, Valerie’s post might be right that a company will still think this is a good idea and try going down this route – I simply don’t see them having any success in doing so. I see even less success from trying to enforce a subscription system, since I somewhat feel that ship has sailed in the webcomic world – Modern Tales (and related sites) were a very big effort to make that system work, with some very impressive strips to lure people in. Modern Tales is still around – but the core subscription elements have largely been scuttled. Now, many webcomics seem to be having some success with bonus subscriptions that provide extra content, and I think that seems to be a very promising route – but blocking the comic itself behind a subscription barrier seems to generally hurt more than it helps.
Honestly, what I’d like to see is DC and Marvel starting to draw on the elements of webcomics, rather than the webcomics themselves. They have started some basic digital programs, with Zuda and so forth – but I think the next step will be figuring out how to get their core properties online and successful on the web. Take some of the comics that underperform at selling regular issues, but have a good fanbase and decent interest in the trades, and launch them online. Stuff being cancelled like Blue Beetle – figure out how to manifest it in webcomic format, use it to build interest, and I suspect it would hit a much vaster audience than it ever did in shops, with a very good turnaround on selling completed trades.
But… that’s just my theory. The companies seem to be very unwilling to step down that route thus far, so I’m not holding my breath to see anything along those lines – but I do think we’ll see them trying something, one way or another, and sooner rather than later.
Webcomic News: Scary-Go-Round
Scary-Go-Round, the fantastically surreal comic by John Allison, might soon be coming to an end – though the assurance is given that should it end, something new shall rise in its place. Given that this happened before, with S-G-R itself being an offshoot from the earlier Bobbins, I don’t see too much cause for concern.
Indeed, I see it almost as a superficial difference. The cast of Allison’s comics has always been somewhat fluid, with main characters being regularly supplanted, or simply vanishing entirely, or ending up working for the devil. New characters have developed over Scary Go Round… and then have themselves moved out of the picture. As the author says when talking about the comic: “Characters just get worn out after a while.”
Given the comic has already proving willing to completely shift cast and crew with abandon, or jaunting off to the afterlife for a spell, I don’t feel any real worry about what is coming next. I imagine there will be a shift of focus, of characters, perhaps even of locale – but the real humor and entertainment in the work has always been independant of any specific characters, and I imagine that whatever new stories Allison has to tell, the same bizarre fun will be found in the telling of it.
The thing that I think would prove the sticking point for DC and Marvel getting into the webcomics business is that everything I’ve seen on the economics of webcomics says that it takes at least a year, and often more, before the comic can actually turn a profit.
That’s an investment that an individual can make, probably by keeping their day job until the comic can support them. Would a comics company be able to put that kind of investment into comics that may or may not eventually pay it back?
Well, one thing to keep in mind – that figure is largely for someone unknown breaking into the field. DC and Marvel come with a premade audience, especially for already known characters.
I would see it happening similar to what went down with Girl Genius – it shifted from having a decent fanbase for the print comic, to having a very strong fanbase online, in a very short period of time.
Now, them taking the same approach, with comics that aren’t already key properties… well, that’s basically what they are working at with Zuda, so we can continue to watch and see how that goes.